You might develop hearing loss as you get older, especially if you frequently expose yourself to loud noise. Similarly, if you work on a noisy factory floor and don’t wear ear protection, hearing loss might be in your future. These hearing loss causes are pretty common. But within the past few years, a new cause has surfaced. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
That’s correct, the same illness that’s been turning the world upside down for the past couple of years may also lead to hearing loss.
Maybe? Probably? Alright, we’re still in the early stages of completely understanding Covid-19. And something new about it is being identified all of the time by scientists. Some research does indicate that Covid-19 is linked to hearing loss, but that research is also somewhat preliminary and is still waiting for more facts to back it up. So let’s have a look at where things stand currently.
So can hearing loss be caused by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to bear in mind: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been proven to cause hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. Vaccines don’t affect your ears, they just don’t work that way. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then declaring that it was the cause of your diabetes.
This is true of both the conventional vaccines and the new mRNA vaccines. Which means that the benefits of these vaccines still greatly exceed the risks for most people. If you have questions about vaccines, make sure to talk to your doctor, and get answers from a reputable source.
Let’s talk about hearing loss now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
So how is hearing loss caused by Covid?
But, how can this cause hearing loss? Specifically, how does this lead to sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is generally irreversible?
Well, there are a couple of theories. These theories, we should mention, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They can both be relevant!
Theory #1: inflammation
The first substantial theory among researchers is that Covid-19 causes significant inflammation in the upper respiratory tract, and that this inflammation can ultimately affect your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all interconnected. There are a couple of ways this could trigger hearing loss:
- Fluid buildup: Inflammation can make drainage pathways narrower, making it more difficult for fluid to escape or drain properly. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to build up. In these instances, your hearing will usually return to normal after your symptoms subside (if this takes place, you’re not experiencing sensorineural hearing loss).
- Cell damage: It’s essential to keep in mind that viruses reproduce by hijacking your body’s own cells. The result is damage. Sometimes, damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears happens because of the way Covid affects your vascular system. This situation is sensorineural hearing loss and will be basically permanent.
When hearing loss is caused by a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often help. Scientists are still looking for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss caused by cell damage. How much protection from this kind of hearing loss the vaccines will supply is unclear, but it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The second theory is a bit murkier in terms of the cause and effect, but more substantiated in terms of patients’ experience. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
Patients will go through symptoms of Covid when they are experiencing Long Covid, long after they have recovered from the actual virus. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that drags out for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. Scientists still aren’t sure exactly what causes Long Covid, but there’s no doubt it’s a real thing.
Data about long-term hearing complications was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. The review found that:
- After having Covid, hearing loss was reported by 7.6% of people.
- Vertigo was reported by7.2% of people
- Tinnitus was experienced by 14.8%
Whether these auditory difficulties are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t really clear, but it goes without saying there’s some kind of relationship. A host of symptoms, including hearing issues, come from Long Covid.
Evidence or anecdote?
When someone talks about how they got Covid and had hearing issues ever since, that’s an anecdote. It’s only one person’s narrative. When researchers are attempting to develop a treatment plan, these personal stories, while they are part of everyday life for the individuals, aren’t enough for researchers to go on. That’s why research is so crucial.
Scientists will be able to get a better comprehension about the hazards of Covid as they accumulate more data about how widespread these difficulties are.
We undoubtedly have to understand more. Research is continuing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t actually proven or unproven. No matter how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still important that you get treatment as soon as you can. So if you suspect your hearing isn’t what it used to be, give us a call to schedule an appointment.